Total Pageviews

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Meldrum's X lineage Post 3: THE UGLY

This post is the last of three posts dealing with the X lineage DNA claims of Rodney Meldrum, who leads the Heartland apologetic movement. The first post summarised the science, the second deals with Meldrum's interpretation of the science and the third examines Meldrum's questionable salesmanship.


Post I. Meldrum's X lineage: THE GOOD
In the first post I introduce some of the key scientists who have researched the X lineage and summarise the X lineage research.

Post II. Meldrum's X lineage: THE BAD
In the second post I review Rodney Meldrum's Creationist agenda, how this impacts his interpretation of the science and his "creative' use of evidence in support of his Heartland movement.

Post III. Meldrum's X lineage: THE UGLY
In the third post I look at the controversy Rodney Meldrum has sparked in apologetic circles and the questionable way he is selling his ideas.



The Spirit of contention

Several years ago two LDS women I knew (Julie and Anne - not their real names) established a small business together. Julie was more practical and looked after the day to day running of the business, while Anne was the more creative partner. For a time the business was successful but eventually times got tough, the business struggled and their relationship soured. One day Julie explained to me what was causing her the most difficulty in the business relationship. At meetings when important decisions were to be made, Anne would frequently say that she had prayed and felt inspired about which direction the company should go in. Julie felt very uncomfortable about this because she also had strong feelings about her own point of view. After gently reminding Julie that the Spirit may have had more important things to worry about than the success of her business, I suggested that she was being emotionally (or spiritually) manipulated by Anne. 



When a Mormon says the Spirit has confirmed their decision, or they "feel" something is right, they are in effect saying the debate is over. In Mormon-speak they are saying God has revealed to them they are right. By claiming God had confirmed her decision, Anne placed great strain on the relationship and their ability to communicate openly. If Julie questioned Anne's decision she risked hurting her feelings because Anne would see that as questioning her ability to perceive the Spirit. In LDS circles this would be akin to questioning her worthiness. If Julie chose not to question Anne she would feel resentment because she has been unable to express her opinion. The truth is that the businesses of perfectly righteous people, both religious and irreligious, fail all the time and God turns a blind eye. Why would a God bother to help an affluent person in a developed Western country become even more affluent when millions of children are starving in Africa? 

The moment Rodney Meldrum set foot in the apologetic arena in about 2004 he was on a collision course with the apologists, in particular those wedded to the Mesoamerican Limited Geography Model. And that includes almost all of the apologists housed at the Maxwell Institute at BYU. The Mesoamerican LG model has effectively been the "official" Book of Mormon geography for decades by virtue of the fact that so many Mesoamerican apologists are employed by the church and the church has funded so much research in Mesoamerica. Not only did Meldrum openly claim that the Heartland model was correct, he openly criticised the Mesoamerican model, blaming it for the recent increased rate of apostasy among the youth. But his biggest mistake was to claim that the Spirit was on his side. This is what Meldrum told his followers in 2008.   
After fasting and praying about it with my family, and after reading my patriarchal blessing, . . . it was clear that I was going to have to leave [his job] to work on these projects full time, but I wanted more of a 'sign' from the Lord. So I had three big projects about to close with [his job], and I told the Lord that if he wants me to make this project my #1 priority to please cause that none of these jobs go through. . . . Well, within three days all three of the jobs were either terminated by the client, lost to another company, or delayed until next year! So on Monday, April 21st, I put in my two weeks notice and began my new life working full-time on this project.
- Meldrum (2008) via email 

Meldrum has also posted dozens of testimonials from people who have been convinced of the truthfulness of the Heartland model, using language more at home in a Fast and Testimony meeting. In many of these testimonies, people speak of how uncomfortable they felt with the Mesoamerican arguments and how the Heartland model just feels right.  

Claiming that the Spirit was on his side created immediate tension between Meldrum and the Mesoamerican apologists. And it was the same sort of tension  felt between Julie and Anne in the example above. By claiming that the spirit had confirmed that the Heartland model was right, Meldrum was also clearly implying that the Mesoamerican model was wrong. Unfortunately for Meldrum, Mesoamerican apologists only know one way to deal with people who challenge them and it wasn't long before the very public tension turned ugly. With the publication of his DVD in 2008 and book in 2009 Meldrum provided targets for the wrath of the Mesoamerican apologists. The response from the Mesoamerican crowd was immediate, voluminous and hostile. 

The publications that started it all

Both Meldrum publications are built almost entirely around Meldrum's fraudulent X lineage claims which he had been spruiking at firesides over several years. Those with the time and a stomach for Mormons arguing with Mormons can dive into this bunfight at the following links.
FAIR review of DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography

FARMS review of Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA

This third link contains a record of a heated exchange between FAIR apologists and Meldrum. Meldrum's Blog 

Readers wanting to get straight to the point need look no further than the concluding sentence of Greg Smith's 161 page FARMS review "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt
"The Book of Mormon, the Latter-day Saints, and the Church of Jesus Christ deserve far better than Meldrum's pseudoscientific snake oil and strained proof-texting."
— Greg Smith (FARMS)  
There are many things that Greg Smith and I are unlikely to agree on about the Book of Mormon, but with respect to Rodney Meldrum we are in complete agreement. Meldrum is in the snake oil business. While the reviews are filled with justifiable criticism of Meldrum's scientific atrocities, considerable ire was directed at Meldrum's abuse of the Spirit to bolster his claims.
"FAIR has unreservedly concluded the following: Mr. Meldrum has attempted to assert revelation for those outside of his stewardship, and has used that revelation as a substitute for solid scholarship" 
— FAIR  
"One aspect of Meldrum's work...is his implicit and explicit claim that his theories are inspired, and that his advocacy in their behalf is directed by God. Perhaps in response to this type of critique, Remnant through DNA contains disclaimers, as it must if it is to get any traction among Meldrum's target audience—believing Latter-day Saints... 
It is quickly apparent that, despite any formal disclaimers made, Meldrum's style of presentation is heavily laced with the implication that he is a special, chosen person on a divinely sanctioned mission... 
Either the disclaimers in Remnant through DNA are not offered in complete sincerity or the author is untroubled by mixed messages. ...despite his nod in the direction of restraint, he pursues his course with an evangelistic zeal and certitude. It is perhaps this aspect of his work that is most disturbing." 
— Greg Smith (FARMS)  
There is an unwritten law among mainstream LDS apologists that you never claim that the argument you are making is inspired. This is because it is not very inspiring to have one apologetic camp claiming the Spirit is telling them one thing and another apologetic camp claiming the Spirit is telling them something completely different. Because when this happens they run the risk that people will start to question how reliable the Spirit (feelings) is for determining all kinds of truth. And the answer to that question is that feelings are pretty much the least reliable means by which we can discern truth.


Shades of affinity fraud

In order to help sell the Heartland message Meldrum has also gone to considerable lengths to enlist the support of Mormon celebrities. Famous endorsers of the Heartland model include LDS General Authority (Emeritus) Hartman Rector Jr., Orrin Hatch, controversial talk show host Glenn Beck, singing star Alex Boye', filmmaker Kieth Merrill, several Osmonds, former Relief Society General President Mary Ellen Smoot, 9/11 conspiracy theorist Steven E. Jones and dozens of other well known Mormons. 



Meldrum has gone to great lengths to draw people's attention to the attendance of Elder Hartman Rector Jr. at his conferences. Rector served in the First Quorum of the Seventy, one step below the Apostles, from 1976 to 1994. The long retired General Authority sits right up front and lends that crucial air of "church approved" to the whole affair. But Elder Rector has done much more than just attend Heartland conferences. He has been intimately involved in the Heartland movement from the outset and publicly endorses Meldrum's workIn Meldrum's 2008 email to people who had purchased his DVD he recounted a blessing he had received from Elder Rector. Clearly, Meldrum feels he has been called by God to deliver the Heartland message to the world. 
[My wife] and I had the most incredible and special experience as we met with Hartman [and his wife] in their peaceful home. After talking for some time, and updating him on all the latest developments, he...gave us the most incredible blessing imaginable. 
They were incredibly powerful and caused both Tonya and I to no longer doubt the validity of work in which we are engaged. The only thing I can share from the blessings is that the overall understanding is that this information will go out to “millions” who will be touched by the work, and that this will “embolden” the saints to open their mouths and declare anew the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that millions will find and enter his kingdom! The spirit was overwhelmingly wonderful and we felt so blessed to have that privilege. (retrieved from FAIR website 

Emeritus General Authorities do not have authority to act on behalf of the church, but there can be little doubt that Meldrum is using Rector to give his movement the appearance of legitimacy. Many attending Meldrum's conferences could be excused for thinking that the church endorses the Heartland movement. 

As it turns out, Rector does not have a particularly good track record of discerning reliable Mormon entrepreneurs. Rector has links to Rick Koerber, the "Latter-day Capitalist," who is facing charges for federal affinity fraud in an alleged ponzi scheme (trial set for Feb 2014). Federal investigators allege that Koerber used Rector to imply church endorsement of his business. Hartman Rector attended many of Koerber's sales pitch seminars and lived in a house owned by one of Koerber's companies. Could it be that Rector is receiving kick backs from the very profitable Heartland movement?  

Hartman Rector Jr. is no stranger to dodgy marketing methods and has frequently employed them himself over the years. In the late 1970s Rector was the mission president of the San Diego Mission and during his period at the helm the mission became the highest baptising mission in the church. Rector was extremely proud of this achievement and has written about how to convert people to the church. But Rector's less well publicised methods were very questionable. Extremely high baptism rates were achieved by importing Mexicans by the busload, giving them a 1st discussion and baptising them in swimming pools. Once baptised they were immediately taken back over the border on the same day. San Diego members who suffered through Hartman Rector's rule look back with embarrassment at the actions of this deluded general authority. 

Mesoamerican "propagandists"

Its now a few years since the FAIR and FARMS reviews of Meldrum's Heartland model were published and the reviews have had the impact you would expect. The two Mormon camps despise each other. Meldrum now openly ridicules the Mesoamerican apologists, claiming on Alan Osmond's blog in August 2013 that they are "misguided" "propagandists" who are "misleading" Mormons with "bankrupt" theories based on "anti-Mormon" facts that "distort" the truth. 
"Unfortunately, some LDS members are blinded by the false and misleading findings of anti-Mormon’s which are being perpetuated by Mesoamerica theory propagandists. These unofficial apologist organizations such as FAIR, BMAF and the now defunct FARMS organizations (they were all summarily fired from the Neal A. Maxwell Institute in June 2012), are literally promoting the anti-Mormon claims in order to protect their sacred Mesoamerican theories. Please Alan, continue to share the truth and don’t allow these Mesoamerican theory zealots to cast aside the DNA evidence that is prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon prophets proclaimed that their seed would “never be destroyed according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 9:53) yet these LDS apologists proclaim that the DNA evidence has been diluted out of existence and that there is no DNA evidence to support the Book of Mormon claims. They are misguided and are misleading the membership of the Church. The lack of DNA evidence is a primary issue of members who are “leaving [the Church] in droves” according to Elder Marlin K. Jensen and ex-Mormon John Dehlin who conducted an eye-opening survey of some 4,000 former Mormons and shared the results of why they left the Church HERE . It once again reared its ugly head in a recent interview with a former General Authority from Europe in a New York Times front page article and video interview. The Mesoamerican theories are bankrupt as to DNA, archaeological, geographic, linguistic and prophetic evidences. The Heartland Model of the Book of Mormon offers a refreshing new level of evidence in all of these fields! This is why it is growing exponentially across the membership of the Church. 
Don’t let the “Guatemala is the Promised Land” promoters, using anti-Mormon “facts,” distort the truth. “The United States is the Promised Land foretold in the Book of Mormon” (Elder L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Dec. 2012) and it is the nation that was being prophesied about. It is also the nation that was desperately being warned not to allow the secret combinations that destroyed earlier civilizations to get above it. The overwhelming evidence points to the Heartland of North America as the primary and only lands of the Book of Mormon. This is where the covenant with God resides (see article, The Scriptural Basis for the Heartland Model HERE. This is where the New Jerusalem will be built. It is where the Garden of Eden resided and where the gospel was restored. The pattern is clear. This is the sacred land of promise and covenant. It is the “nation above all other nations” and the “mighty Gentile nation above all other nations” spoken of in prophecy. 
It is time for the truth about the Heartland Model Geography to be made available to every member of the Church and allow them to conduct their own analysis and research as to which they feel is better able to defend the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. From our experience with hundreds of thousands of members of the Church, the answer is clear; the Heartland Model offers orders of magnitude more powerful evidences for the historicity of the Book of Mormon than speculations about narrow necks of land and grand piles of stone in Mesoamerica. 
Please feel free to forward this information to as many as you’d like.
Rod Meldrum President – The FIRM Foundation

All humility is now gone. Meldrum is convinced that he is on a mission from the Lord to save the Book of Mormon and he is perfectly comfortable slagging off mainstream LDS apologists who stand in his way; apologists who have enjoyed the patronage of apostles for decades. It appears that no hallowed hand is capable of stopping him. 


Conclusion

Rodney Meldrum displays all of the characteristics of a charlatan. He is reckless with the evidence he uses and completely blinded by his fixed anti-evolution, young-earth creationist mindset. He is now in the business of swindling gullible Mormons out of their money by exploiting their earnest desire for physical evidence to prop up their faith. If Meldrum was to retreat from his fraudulent X lineage claims he would be concerned about the impact on books sales and attendances at his conferences. The Meldrum show will go on because it must go on. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Meldrum's X lineage Post 2: THE BAD

Introduction

This post is the second of three posts dealing with the X lineage DNA claims of Rodney Meldrum, who leads the Heartland apologetic movement. The first post summarises the science, the second deals with Meldrum's interpretation of the science and the third discusses Meldrum's questionable salesmanship. 

Post I. Meldrum's X lineage: THE GOOD 
In this post I introduce some of the key scientists who have researched the X lineage and summarise the X lineage research.

Post II. Meldrum's X lineage: THE BAD 
In this post I review Rodney Meldrum's Creationist agenda, how this impacts his interpretation of the science and his "creative' use of evidence in support of his Heartland movement.

Post III. Meldrum's X lineage: THE UGLY 
In the third post I look at the controversy Rodney Meldrum has sparked in apologetic circles and the questionable way he is selling his ideas.

Rodney Meldrum
President FIRM Foundation


Rodney Meldrum

Meldrum first entered apologetics in about 2003, soon after he came across the DVD DNA vs. the Book of Mormon which was produced by a Christian outreach in Brigham City, Utah. Meldrum was alarmed by claims in the DVD that Israelite DNA is absent in Native American populations. He became even more troubled when he learned soon afterwards that many LDS apologists at BYU, in particular Mesoamerican (LGT) apologists, had largely conceded that Israelite DNA had not been found in living Native Americans. Meldrum set to work to prove the Mesoamercian apologists wrong. Over the last 6 years Rodney Meldrum has been loudly promoting the Heartland Theory. In his book Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA Meldrum claims that critics of the Book of Mormon were too quick to claim all Native American DNA lineages were derived from Asia (Rediscovering, pages 5-8) and LGT apologists have been misled by the "anti-mormon" critics. The Heartland model is well on its way to becoming the most popular model of Book of Mormon geography.    

Meldrum established the FIRM Foundation (Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism) in late 2008. FIRM now claims to have over 200 members sitting on 10 boards and over 25,000 subscribers to its newsletters. FIRM sponsors two "International Book of Mormon Evidence Conference's" each year and numerous regional conferences. Each conference typically attracts over 400 attendees and they are always sold out. Meldrum recently released a book, Exploring the Book of Mormon in America's Heartland, which has sold about 15,000 copies. He now makes a living from the sales of books, DVDs, tours, conferences, artwork and other novelties from his website.


Young Earth Creationism

Rodney Meldrum is a Biblical fundamentalist. He believes (knows) that the earth is roughly 6,000 years old, the Flood killed most living things about 4,500 years ago and that all continents were colonised by the descendants of Noah within the last 4,000 years. Meldrum presents himself as a "researcher, author and national lecturer" on the Book of Mormon. He claims to have served as a senior scientific researcher on a university-level natural sciences textbook for well over 7 years, however, the book remains unpublished. Somewhat surprisingly, for someone claiming to be working on a scientific book, Meldrum has no formal scientific qualifications and is not a scientist. The natural sciences textbook will not be mainstream science because of Meldrum's fundamentalist beliefs. The book is almost certainly an attempt to portray Creationism as scientific. 


My position as the author of this work is that when there is an inferred conflict between scientific theories and scriptural truths, the scriptures will always be demonstrated true, and the theories of men, put forward through science, will eventually conform to the truths of the gospel, not the other way around. Of course error can be made in the interpretation of scripture; however when they (the Scriptures) are clear and supported by prophetic or revelatory understanding, and if they cannot be reconciled with the current theories of science, then it should be understood that eventually the scientific theories will be altered to comply with God’s truth, even if that means waiting until the next life. 
Rodney Meldrum, Introduction, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA, page 3
Readers of Rediscovering are left in little doubt what Meldrum interprets as "clear" in scripture. Meldrum still holds on to the fundamentalist notion that the entire world was populated by the family of Noah, and that Noah's sons gave rise to the major racial groups. He even uses this religious belief as "evidence" that Native Americans didn't cross the Bering land bridge during the last ice age.
"First, the Book of Mormon does not describe an overland migration into the Americas from Asia, but rather a transoceanic voyage from the Mediterranean area. Second, Lehi’s lineage stems from the descendants of Noah’s son Shem, and not Japheth, the father of the Asiatic peoples." 
— Rodney Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA, Page 7
Another reason Meldrum cannot accept the Beringian migration "theory" is that he finds it hard to believe that people could have survived an ice age. The notion that people migrated to where there wasn't permanent ice appears to have escaped him.
"The resulting crop and plant failures due to year round freezing temperatures would make it impossible for most animals and humans to find food and would cause a complete collapse in the normal food chains and populations of the earth."   
— Rodney Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA, Page 100
According to Meldrum the scientific consensus that Native Americans entered via the Bering Strait is just a "theory" or an "idea". He uses similar tiresome logic to dismiss evolution. Its just a "theory". What Meldrum completely misses is that there are abundant scientific facts that conclusively prove that man has lived in the New World for over 13,000 years. The Bering Strait "theory" is universally accepted by the scientific community because a staggering amount of scientific evidence from numerous disciplines supports it. Dismissing it as a "theory" doesn't remove the facts, the most obvious being that North America is blanketed in thousands of Clovis spear points that are associated with organic material that has been carbon-dated (thousands of datings) to about 13,500 years ago. 

Clovis spear points date
to 13,500 years BP

There are times when Meldrum's cherry picking of scientific evidence and his underlying fundamentalist beliefs are exposed. For example, most fundamentalists dismiss radiocarbon dating out of hand, because the technology is used widely to date the age of organic materials up to 50,000 years old. That's well beyond the age of the world Meldrum lives in (see Rediscovering, pages 93 to 99). But Meldrum is prepared to use radiocarbon dates (e.g. 1340 years BP) that prove the X lineage was in the Americas prior to the arrival of Columbus (see Rediscovering pages 75, 90 and 142). Why? Because that piece of evidence helps prove that the X lineage arrived before Columbus, a fact that is necessary for his argument to be valid. But what if radiocarbon dates come along, as they inevitably will, that reveal a 10,000-year-old individual with an X2a lineage? Meldrum would simply reject the result because it wouldn't be consistent with his interpretation of scripture. In fact Meldrum has already prepared his escape clause. This is Meldrum's response to questions about the DNA lineage work done on the remains of On Your Knees Cave Man from Alaska, which were carbon-dated to 10,300 years ago.
Carbon dates going back to about the time of Noah’s flood are generally relatively accurate depending on many parameters, but the dating pre-flood is problematic because of the disturbance in the global C14/C13 ratio’s at that time. The same goes with the Canadian dating of 5,000 year old remains.
— Rodney Meldrum, TheFamily.com

In Meldrum's view carbon dating is accurate within the last few thousand years because he can use that to support his predetermined X lineage claims but the moment it is used to date material that doesn't fit within his creationist 4,500 year post flood timescale its reliability disappears completely. Its all a bit too convenient. Meldrum correctly alludes to the fact that C14/C13 ratios have changed historically, but because we have anchored tree ring carbon dates we know pretty much exactly how much those ratios have changed by and when they have changed. The ratio changes are related to fluctuations in the earth's magnetic field and they generally affect the accuracy by much less than 10%. It has nothing to do with imaginary global flood events.



Recent Heartland DNA Claims

While originally there was a small measure of moderation in Meldrum’s X lineage claims, all signs of restraint have disappeared in recent months. Meldrum is now promoting the “Israelite” X lineage loudly across the Internet. At the last Book of Mormon Evidence Conference Jake Hilton announced a new “Mormon Evidence” initiative aimed at reaching the youth of the church via Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. According to Jake Hilton the only place you find the X lineage outside of the Americas is in Jewish populations.




“What makes Haplogroup X2 DNA so significant is that it is only found in one other location on the planet: Among Jewish populations of Europe and the Middle East.”

 Jake Hilton, 2013
This claim is demonstrably false. The X2 lineage is found in numerous populations over a vast area of Europe and into Central Asia, from the Orkney Islands off Scotland to the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia and many places in between. It also has no specific ties to Jewish populations where it occurs at similarly low frequencies. It has been found at slightly elevated frequencies (7.7%) in the non-Jewish Druze population currently living in Israel (Shlush et al. 2008), but the slightly higher frequency in this population is most likely due to chance. The Druze are a small insular group and genetically isolated groups frequently carry specific lineages at higher frequency due to bottleneck effects.

Some could be excused for thinking that Hilton got a little carried away with his claims, but his words are directly in line with false claims Meldrum has made in the past. 

"The Bering Strait theory is so prevalent that researchers were still trying to find some sort of trace in Asia, rather than accepting the idea that another (possibly European) migration had actually occurred. However, as of 2009, Haplogroup X is still not found in Asia, and continues to frustrate the theory, causing researchers to invoke the “it got lost” explanation"
— Rodney Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA, Page 76
It is inexcusable for Meldrum to be making this false claim 8 years after the X2 lineage was identified in Siberian populations. As far back as 2001 the X2 lineage was identified among the Altaian population of Southern Siberia (Derenko et al. 2001). Since then the X2 lineage has been identified in several Central Asian populations and a couple of other Siberian populations (Reidla et al. 2003; Starikovskaya et al. 2004). The version of the X2 lineage identified in the Altaians (X2e) is not closely related to Native American X lineages. In fact, the X2e lineage has also been identified among the Druze and Georgians.    

Rodney Meldrum has now enlisted the support of Alan Osmond to promote his Heartland ideas and the claims grow bolder by the minute. This is exactly what you would expect from someone who is essentially a net-marketer.
“LISTEN UP - "Especially if you are a Mormon/Latter-day Saint"!
DNA Traces Jewish Descendants From Jerusalem To North America!”




Consider these comments made by Alan on his TheFamily.com website.
"DNA findings establish haplogroup X as originating in Israel, continuing through the destruction of Jerusalem at 586 B.C., and now verified in the Heartland of North America during Book of Mormon time frames. This level of secular evidence is unprecedented. Even more interesting is that Joseph Smith, when commanded by the Lord to take the Book of Mormon to the “Lamanites” (see D&C 28, 30, 32), immediately dispatched four missionaries to four Indian tribes located in New York, Ohio and Missouri. Amazingly, these four tribes, which were recorded in the journal of Parley P. Pratt, just happen to all have high concentrations of haplogroup X today!"

“Today, there is ample and overwhelming evidence of Israelite DNA among Native populations of North America! The Book of Mormon is a historical record of real people and events."

"Amazingly, haplogroup X has also been found in the Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Libyan, Moroccan, Tunisian, and Iraqi Jewish populations, the latter of which can trace their ancestry back to 586 B.C. when they were forcibly removed from Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon (Iraq) as slaves."
Again, there is no evidence to support any of these statements. If the X lineage arrived in the Americas just 2,500 years ago we would expect the X lineages of Native Americans to be very similar because they would not have had sufficient time to accumulate many new mutations. But even in the Americas we see considerable diversity in the X2a lineage family. The figure below shows all of the branches in the Native American X2a subclade (retrieved from phylotree.org)



By following the branches that connect any two DNA lineages in the above figure, and counting up the mutations (circled) you can see that even in the X2a subclade there are several lineages that are very different.  For example, there are 15 mutations that distinguish the X2a1a1 lineage from the X2a2 lineage. If you include the 6 unique mutations that all X2a lineages share (lower branch), that makes a minimum of 21 mutations that distinguish the X2a1a1 lineage from all other X2 lineages. 2,500 years is clearly insufficient time for these mutations to have arisen by chance.

If we compare the number of mutations that have occurred in X2a lineages with the number of new mutations that have occurred in other founding lineages of Native Americans we see similar numbers. The figure below compares the number of mutations in the X2a1a1 lineage with a typical lineage (A2i) in the major founding A2 haplogroup. Both share a similar number of mutations which are most likely to have arisen since their arrival in the New World. 



You will also notice that the A and X lineage are very distantly related. They are different branches of the N super-haplogroup. The number of mutations that have occurred in the X2a subclade since it branched from other N lineages is 15. In other words, the amount of variation within New World X2a lineages is similar to the variation that distinguishes X2a from other lineages belonging to the N haplogroup, which includes the Native American A2 lineage.


Meldrum’s "keystone" argument




In spite of the consensus among scientists that American Indian X2a lineages entered the New World about 15,000 years ago, Rodney Meldrum is adamant that it arrived at about the time Lehi did. He recently explained his logic on Alan Osmond's website. His entire argument rests on his interpretation of the science of dating DNA. About 40% of his book Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant Through DNA, is devoted to proving that the scientific community has got their timing all wrong when it comes to mutation rates. But Meldrum's real issue isn't mutation rates. Its evolution. In Meldrum's mind, anything based on the assumption that human's and chimpanzees share a common ancestor is inherently flawed. 
It all comes down to the DNA dating issues that I discuss in detail in my (Rod L. Meldrum) book, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant Through DNA. Haplogroup X is, obviously, the base or original haplotype with X2 being a sub-group or “clade” and X2a being a sub-sub group. X2a (in Native American populations of North America) is absolutely related to X2b (found in Israelite populations worldwide), the only question is when did the mutations differentiating them arise, which relies on the assumptions of mtDNA mutation rate dating. 
The phylogenetic dating method which has been used in the estimated 12-15k year ago arrival figure, is purely theoretical in that it assumes a common ancestor for both humans and chimps at 5-6 million years ago and deduces the rate of change (or mutation rate) from the differences between humans and chimps over that time, speculated to be one mutation per every 6,764 years on average (Genetics 172:373-387, Jan 2006).

The Pedigree dating method, which is based on empirical comparison of thousands of living grandmother/granddaughter lineages to establish the actual observed rate of change demonstrates that the mutation rate for mtDNA is 20-26 times higher than the theoretically derived phylogenetic rate implies (American Journal of Human Genetics 66:1599, 2000).

Application of the observed mutation rate to the mtDNA facts results in an approximate arrival date of haplogroup X somewhere around 2,000-2,500 years ago rather than the theoretical 12-15k date. Thus, the unobservable theoretical dating is the only thing standing in the way of haplogroup X being Book of Mormon related. Once the dating is corrected to known, actual and observed mutation rates, it falls directly into Book of Mormon time frames. Download the entire e-book at http://www.bookofmormonevidence.org/downloads.php for further detailed, referenced information.


Rod Meldrum President – The FIRM Foundation 
Well over a decade ago there was debate in the scientific community over the correct mutation rate to use when dating mtDNA lineages. That debate has now been largely resolved but Meldrum persists in holding on to the most extreme estimate of mutation rates from a single paper published over 15 years ago. Back in 1997 the entire mtDNA genome had only been sequenced in a handful of individuals. We now have databases containing almost 17,000 entire human mtDNA sequences. In 2010 Rodney Meldrum appeared in a DVD documentary Lost Civilizations of North America where he presented his outdated DNA dating arguments. Four scientists were so annoyed by his distorted DNA dating claims that they wrote the following response. 
... the particular controversy that Meldrum cites is a decade old, concerns the mutation rate in only one small segment of mtDNA (the control region), and has generally been resolved. Pedigree studies measure the rate of mutation observed in parent-offspring comparisons, but many mutations are eliminated within a few generations of their occurrence because of natural selection, genetic drift, and recurrent mutation at some sites in the DNA. The measurable rate of mtDNA evolution therefore decreases over time (Soares et al. 2009), making it inappropriate to use mutation rate estimates from pedigree studies for dating the origin and diversification of most lineages (for example, any that originated more than a few generations ago).  
Instead, the mtDNA mutation rate is calculated by measuring the number of genetic differences between two or more individuals (or species) and then dividing that number by the length of time since they diverged from a common ancestor. The timing of their divergence is based on fossil, archaeological, and/or geological evidence, and it is not simply "theoretical" (as Meldrum suggests). Furthermore, Meldrum does not rely on newer findings to argue that haplogroup X began to diversify and spread only two thousand years ago, as he claims, but rather on an old and unusually fast estimate of the mtDNA mutation rate (Parsons et al. 1997). Virtually all pedigree studies have found significantly lower mutation rates (Howell et al. 2003) than the one Meldrum uses, which suggests that haplogroup X began diversifying much earlier than he claims. Studies of the complete mitochondrial genome (rather than just the control region), using less controversial mutation rates for the mtDNA coding region, also suggest that haplogroup X began to diversify much earlier (~31,800 years ago; Soares et al. 2009). 
 Deborah Bolnick, Kenneth Feder, Bradley Lepper & Terry  Barnhart, (Civilizations Lost and Found: Fabricating History - Part Three: Real Messages in DNA)

Meldrum believes that scientists have made incorrect assumptions about the rate at which mutations emerge to create new DNA lineages. He thinks these are all out by a factor of about 10 to 20. Using his own dating approach, based on a single outdated paper which no scientists currently adhere to, Meldrum dates the age of the X lineage to about 2,500 years, an age that conveniently fits with the Book of Mormon narrative. 

The real bogyman here is evolution. It is abundantly clear in Rediscovering that Meldrum utterly rejects evolution. In his book he argues that, since evolution has been dismissed by Mormon prophets, it is false. He turns a blind eye to clear statements by the church that it takes no position on evolution. But Meldrum persists, because rejection of evolution goes hand in hand with accepting Meldrum's flawed dating claims. Meanwhile, entire academic departments at church-owned BYU are staffed by scientists who on a daily basis use the principles of evolution to make sense of the biological world in which we live. Over 99.9% of earth and life scientist accept evolution as a fact. These are people who have gone to the trouble to gain sufficient knowledge about evolution to make an informed and considered choice. Less that 0.2% accepted Creationism (700 out of 480,000). Meanwhile Meldrum, who has no scientific credentials, continues to claim he knows best.

In the borrowed words of a faithful Mormon BYU professor, that he offers annually to his fresh crop of naive LDS biology students: Evolution is a fact Rodney, get over it.


References

Derenko, Miroslava V., Tomasz Grzybowski, Boris A. Malyarchuk, et al. (2001) "The Presence of Mitochondrial Haplogroup X in Altaians from South Siberia," American Journal of Human Genetics 69:237-41.

Howell, N. (2003) "The Pedigree Rate of Sequence Divergence in the Human Mitochondrial Genome: There Is a Difference Between Phylogenetic and Pedigree Rates" American Journal of Human Genetics, Vol. 72. 659-670.

Reidla, et al. (2003) "Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X," American Journal of Human Genetics 73, 1178-90.

Thomas J. Parsons (1997) "A High Observed Substitution Rate in the Human Mitochondrial DNA Control Region" Nature Genetics, Vol. 15, 363–8

Shlush, L. I. et al (2008) The Druze: A population genetic refugium of the Near East. PLoS ONE, 3 , p. e2105.

Soares, P; Ermini, L; Thomson, N; Mormina, M; Rito, T; Röhl, A; Salas, A; Oppenheimer, S et al. (2009) "Correcting for purifying selection: an improved human mitochondrial molecular clock" American Journal of Human Genetics 84: 740–59.

Starikovskaya et al. (2004) "Mitochondrial DNA Diversity in Indigenous Populations of the Southern Extent of Siberia, and the Origins of Native American Haplogroups" Annals of Human Genetics 69. 67-89.

Meldrum's X lineage Post 1: THE GOOD

Introduction

LDS scholars defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon have focused most of their energy on shrinking the Book of Mormon footprint and most of their anger on secular critics. The arrival of DNA put even more strain on LGT as it placed severe limits on the scale of the Lehite incursion. Limited geography theory (LGT) apologists, as they are known, now concede that the ancestors of Native Americans largely originated in Asia and that Lehi and his family played a minor role in a small corner of the New World. 

Over the last 6 years Rodney Meldrum has been loudly promoting the Heartland Theory, which argues that the Book of Mormon civilisations were located in the heartland of North America. In his book Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA Meldrum claims that critics of the Book of Mormon were too quick to claim all Native American DNA lineages were derived from Asia (Rediscovering, pages 5-8) and LGT apologists have been misled by the critics. A controversial claim of Heartland apologists is that the mitochondrial X lineage found among a small percentage of North American tribes is derived from Israel and was brought to the Americas by Lehi and his party. The Heartland model has rapidly established itself as arguably the most popular model of where Book of Mormon events occurred. 

These are some of the key claims of Rodney Meldrum.
1. Native American X lineages are derived from Israel 
2. The X lineage is more frequent in Jewish populations 
3. The X lineage is not found in Asian populations
None of these claims are true.

This post is the first of three posts dealing with the X lineage DNA claims of Rodney Meldrum, who leads the Heartland apologetic movement. The first post summarises the science, the second deals with Meldum's interpretation of the science and in the third we'll discuss Meldrum's questionable salesmanship.

Post I. Meldrum's X lineage: THE GOOD
In the first post I introduce some of the key scientist who have researched the X lineage and summarise the X lineage research.

Post II. Meldrum's X lineage: THE BAD
In the second post I review Rodney Meldrum's Creationist agenda, how this impacts his interpretation of the science and his "creative' use of evidence in support of his Heartland movement.

Post III. Meldrum's X lineage: THE UGLY 

In the third post I look at the controversy Rodney Meldrum has sparked in apologetic circles and the questionable way he is selling his ideas.

Mitochondrial DNA

Readers who have chanced upon this article may not be familiar with the use of mitochondrial DNA (abbreviated mtDNA) analysis to study human genetics. Briefly, mtDNA consists of the same strands or “base pairs” or nucleotides that are found in the rest of our DNA which is found in the cell’s chromosomes.   Each nucleotide (base) is designated by the letters A, C, G, and T, with A always “paired” with T, and C always paired with G. These letters represent the molecular structures so famously identified in the work of Watson and Crick.


Mitochondrial DNA does not exist as part of the paired chromosomes we see in the cell nucleus. MtDNA is a circular, single stranded molecular, which compared to autosomal DNA, is considerably shorter. There are only 16, 569 base pairs in human mtDNA, rather than the three billion found in the chromsomes in the nucleus. This makes sequencing and analyzing mtDNA much less daunting. 

We inherit our mtDNA from our mothers. The fertilized ovum that we each arose from, contains mtDNA that exist outside the cell nucleus in small bodies known as “mitochondria.” As a result of cellular replication, those 16,569 pairs are reproduced identically over and over again with very few errors in the copying process. However, while errors (or mutations) are extremely rare, they do happen and are passed on to future descendants of the woman. 



Scientists track mutations in mtDNA lineages in order to classify mtDNA into related lineage families. DNA scientists have categorized mtDNA sequences into haplogroups, and since Native Americans were the first people studied, their haplogroups were labeled A, B, C, and D. As new methods were developed and the sequences were studied and the differences noted, additional letters and numbers were added to reflect those relationships. For example, haplogroup A1 is more closely related to A3 than to B1, as might be expected.

Haplogroup X was a “latecomer” to DNA science, and its discovery in the New World as well as the Old World fuelled speculation about how and when it arrived. We now know that connection occurred more than 20,000 years ago, based on the large number of differences between X lineages found in the Americas and those in the Old World.


The Scientists

There are numerous scientists who have made very important contributions to our understanding of Native American DNA and in particular the origins of the X haplogroup lineage. I think it is important to put a face to some of these people; for the most part they don't have an axe to grind with the Mormon Church. Indeed, some doubtless hold their own religious beliefs. But what all of these scientists have in common is that they have advanced degrees in the science of human genetics and have carried out their own original research, often over several decades. The evidence these scientists deal with on a daily basis has convinced them the earth is billions of years old, evolution is a fact, and humans are related to all livings things on our planet.

Douglas Wallace
Professor of Molecular Genetics
University of California, Irvine
Douglas Wallace is a pioneering genetics researcher now at the University of California, Irvine, whose achievements in mitochondrial medicine are leading to new treatments for chronic diseases like cancer and diabetes. Wallace earned a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Genetics at Cornell University, and a Master of Philosophy in Microbiology and Human Genetics and a PhD in Microbiology and Human Genetics at Yale University. Wallace led the research team that discovered the 4 major Native American mitochondrial DNA lineages (A, B, C and D) and the less common X lineage. Wallace has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences since 1995 and was recently elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine.


Richard Villems
President of the Estonian Academy of Science






Richard Villems has a BSc and PhD in medicine from the University of Tartu, Estonia. He has had a long and distinguished career in evolutionary biology and has been President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences since 2004. Villems is the senior author of a major study on the X lineage that revealed the deep branches in the X lineage family tree and how widely the lineage has dispersed across the globe since the last ice age. The research involved 44 scientists from a dozen European countries. 



Bradley Lepper
Curator of Archaeology
Ohio Historical Society

Brad Lepper has a MA and PhD in Anthropology from Ohio State University.  He is a Curator of Archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society and an occasional Visiting Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Denison University. His primary areas of interest include North America’s Ice Age peoples, Ohio’s magnificent mounds and earthworks, and the history of Archaeology. Dr Lepper is an expert on the Newark “Holy Stones," a series of carved and polished stones bearing Hebrew inscriptions, said to have been found in the ancient mounds near Newark, Ohio in the 1860s. They were seized upon by those who believed “savage” Indians could not have built Ohio’s mounds, but have been considered frauds since the late 1800s. However, some enthusiasts, including Rodney Meldrum, have recently claimed they are authentic. Dr. Lepper has recently been working with local American Indian leaders to have the Hopewell sites nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage list.


Deborah Bolnick
Assistant Professor
University of Texas at Austin
Dr Deborah Bolnick has a BA in Anthropology from Yale and an MA and PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis. Bolnick is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary research interest is in patterns of human genetic variation and how they are shaped by culture, language, history, and geography. She uses both ancient and modern DNA to test archaeological, linguistic, and ethnohistorical hypotheses about Native American history and prehistory. She has been interviewed by PBS News Hour, BBC World Radio, and the Wall Street Journal.



Ugo Perego
Ugo Perego, is a native of Milan, Italy, received a BSc and an MSc in Health Sciences at Brigham Young University and a PhD in Human Genetics at the University of Pavia (Pavia, Italy). His PhD dissertation focused on the origin of Native Americans through the analysis of complete mitochondrial DNA genomes. Perego's research on the X2a lineage confirmed that the lineage is about as genetically diverse as the four major founding lineages among Native Americans. Perego is LDS and has written apologetic articles for FAIR in support of limited geography models centred on Mesoamerica. Like all other experts in the field Perego doesn't believe that the X lineage arrived recently in the Americas.


The X lineage Science

Before examining Rodney Meldrum’s Israelite X lineage claims in posts II and III its worth taking a look at what the scientists who did the actual research think about the origin of the X2a lineage. None of the non-LDS scientists involved in the discovery and characterisation of the X2a lineage of Native Americans wishes to cause the Mormon Church any harm. They are merely on a scientific quest for the truth about the origins of Native Americans. This research has led them all to the conclusion that the X lineage arrived in the Americas over 15,000 years ago. The two most important X lineage papers were published in 1998 and 2003 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, one of the leading international human genetics journals.

The discovery of the X lineage was first reported by Brown et al. from Emory University in 1998 in a paper entitled "mtDNA haplogroup X: An ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America?" The senior author of this paper is Douglas Wallace who was profiled earlier. It was clear to the authors of this paper that any links between Old and New World X lineages were very old.
“Median network analysis indicated that European and Native American haplogroup X mtDNAs, although distinct, nevertheless are distantly related to each other. Time estimates for the arrival of X in North America are 12,000-36,000 years ago, depending on the number of assumed founders, thus supporting the conclusion that the peoples harboring haplogroup X were among the original founders of Native American populations.”  
 Brown et al., 1998
The other key paper on the X lineage was published in 2003 by Riedla et al. entitled "Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X". The senior author of this paper was Richard Villems (profiled above). The authors of this work concluded the following:
“It is notable that X2 includes the two complete Native American X sequences that constitute the distinctive X2a clade, a clade that lacks close relatives in the entire Old World, including Siberia. The position of X2a in the phylogenetic tree suggests an early split from the other X2 clades, likely at the very beginning of their expansion and spread from the Near East.” 
 Riedla et al., 2003
The X lineage haplogroup, is an ancient and highly divergent mtDNA lineage family. It has recently been divided into two subgroups, X1 and X2, which diverged about 30,000 years ago. Subgroup X1 is rare, and restricted to North and East Africa, and the Near East. Subgroup X2 appears to have expanded its distribution soon after the last glacial maximum (LGM) about 21,000 years ago, reaching far into Eurasia and the New World. It is more common in the Near East, the Caucasus, and Mediterranean Europe; and somewhat less common in the rest of Europe.



Within the X2 sub haplogroup there are distinct subclades that are found in particular populations. Subclades X2a and X2g are found exclusively in North America, and have not been observed in Eurasia, Mesoamerica or South America. Likewise, subclades X2b, X2c, X2d, X2e and X2f are absent in the New World but present in Eurasia. There are even more X2 lineage subclades not shown in the tree below, which is based on a comprehensive database of entire mitochondrial genome sequences which can be accessed at the phylotree.org website.



The circled numbers in the tree denote the number of DNA sequence changes (or mutations) that are found between adjacent lineages on a particular branch. All but one Native American X2 DNA lineage belongs to the X2a subclade, the other belongs to the X2g subclade. All X2a lineages share 6 mutations that distinguish them from all other X2 lineages. It is likely that these 6 mutations were present in the first founders of the Americas. The fact that X2a lineages have not been detected in Asian populations is not particularly surprising. The lineage is rare in the Americas (~2%) but it may have been even more rare in Asia before expanding in the Americas.

The number of differences between any two lineage clades in the trees can be calculated by adding up the numbers on the branches connecting the particular lineages. For example, there are 15 differences between lineages belonging to the X2a1a clade and lineages in the X2e1a clade. For more closely related lineages there are fewer differences. For example there are only 3 differences between the X2a1a clade and the X2a1b clades.


Scientists can use the amount of variation in a family of related DNA lineages to estimate the time to its most recent common ancestor. They are able to do this because at the population level, mutations in mitochondrial DNA tend to occur at a relatively constant rate. By counting the number of mutations in a lineage family scientists can estimate how long the lineage family has existed. This information has helped scientists to gain information about when Native Americans first separated from Asian populations and migrated to the New World. When scientists calculated the age estimates for the X2a lineage and the other 4 major lineage families found among Native Americans, they found that all 5 haplogroups were about the same age, about 17,000 years old. This is compelling evidence that the X2a lineage entered the Americas with the original founders. It is clearly not derived from Israel which didn't exist until about 3,000 years ago.



Ancient DNA lineages

Further evidence that New World X2a lineages are not derived from Israel comes from studies of ancient DNA. Currently, the earliest confirmed discovery of the X lineage in pre-Columbian Native American remains comes from a 1,340-year-old burial site on the Columbia River near Vantage, Washington (Malhi and Smith 2002).

However, there are reports of the presence of the X lineage in much more ancient remains at Windover, Florida (Hauswirth et al. 1994). The site has been carbon-dated to about 7000-8,000 years ago. DNA was isolated from 14 individuals and 166 base pairs of mtDNA sequenced between positions 16151 and 16317. Within this region there are two diagnostic mutations connected to the X lineage. The first mutation at position 16278 is a C to T change (known as C16278T), and is diagnostic of the X lineage. The second mutation is a G to T transition (G16213A) which is diagnostic of X2a lineages. Two of the specimens analyzed carried the lineage X mutation (C16278T), but they both lacked the G16213A (X2a) mutation. It is possible that the lineages identified are ancestral to modern X2a lineages or they may be a distinct branch of the X lineage family which is rare or has gone extinct. It is highly likely that they are X lineages, but because the C16278T mutation has been observed in one other lineage (out of several thousand - see phylotree.org), there is a small chance that it is another lineage. More detailed studies on the Windover site may yet fully confirm this finding.


Isolation of ancient DNA requires considerable care
to avoid contamination with the scientists own DNA

Considerable work is currently being done on ancient remains at many locations and it is inevitable the X lineage will be shown to have been present in America thousands of years before the Book of Mormon period. Dr. Brian M. Kemp recently sequenced and analyzed both the mitochondrial and Y-Chromosome DNA of ancient DNA isolated from an individual known as “On Your Knees Cave Man.” The remains had been Carbon-14 dated to 10,300 years old. The mtDNA was identified as D4h3 which is also found along the west coast of North America and in South America. Dr. Bolnick has also found pre-Columbian remains of an individual with D4h3 in Illinois. Moreover, 5,000-year-old remains of two individuals with mtDNA Haplogroup M have been uncovered in Canada. Haplogroup M is found in East Asia, and the evidence once again points to the ancestors of today’s Native Americans migrating to this hemisphere from Siberia, mostly likely from the Lake Baikal area. 

Conclusion

In summary, this is what is known about Native American X2a lineages:
  • they belong to subclades not found in Eurasia, including the Middle East
  • they are not derived from Israel 
  • they are as highly diverse as the Native American A, B, C and D mtDNA lineages 
  • they arrived in the New World about 15,000 years ago
  • they will inevitably be conclusively identified in ancient DNA pre-dating the Book of Mormon period 

References

Brown, M. D., Hosseini, S. H. and Torroni, A et al. 1998. MtDNA haplogroup X: an ancient link between Europe/Western Asia and North America? American Journal of Human Genetics 63:1852-61.


Fagundes NJ et al. (2008) “Mitochondrial population genomics supports a single pre-Clovis origin with a coastal route for the peopling of the Americas,” American Journal of Human Genetics 82: 583-592.


Hauswirth et al. (1994) Inter- and Intrapopulation Studies of Ancient Humans. Experientia 50, 585-591.

Malhi, R. S. and Smith, D. G. (2002) Brief Communication: Haplogroup X Confirmed in Prehistoric North America, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 119, 84–86.




Reidla, et al. (2003) "Origin and Diffusion of mtDNA Haplogroup X," American Journal of Human Genetics 73, 1178-90.

Shlush, L. I. et al (2008) The Druze: A population genetic refugium of the Near East. PLoS ONE, 3 , p. e2105.

Smith, D. G., Malhi, R. S., Eshleman, J. et al. 1999. Distribution of MtDNA Haplogroup X among Native North Americans, American Journal of Physical Anthropology 110, 271-84.